Why Economic Developers Should Enter the Metaverse
6 Dec 2021
Retailers from Samsung to Disney are buying 'virtual real estate' sometimes in the millions of dollars to have a presence in the metaverse. Make no mistake, the metaverse is going to be huge and it will happen much faster than the dawn of websites, social media, and smartphones.
Why Join the Metaverse Now?
Economic developers should enter the metaverse because if they don't - they, and their communities, will be left behind. Put simply, economic developers cannot afford to sit back and watch as the metaverse becomes part of people's everyday lives. Take, for example, workforce attraction. People looking for a new job may prioritize companies offering metaverse tours so they can experience what it would be like to work there. Likewise, families may only consider moving to communities if they can first walk around and explore in the safe environment of the virtual world.
Some may feel that this is years away, but it's not.
As recently as 2015, VR was viewed on cardboard headsets. In 2022, Oculus wireless headsets have made it possible to enter the metaverse and truly feel like you've been transported to another place. Virtual reality videos have become so real, so immersive, that it's already possible for a potential worker to tour a facility or for a family to walk around and explore a community prior to moving there.
How do we know? We're creating them.
Economic Developers Are Already In the Metaverse
Golden Shovel's PlaceVR has produced virtual reality videos for organizations throughout the United States. Greg Kolbjornsen, PlaceVR Executive Producer, said, "We're communicating a story to an audience in the most powerful way. You literally lose yourself. Humans are very adaptive to this technology. You really are fooling the brain and feel like you're in-person, meeting with other people, exploring, or having an adventure." When asked why entering the metaverse can be more powerful than watching a standard video on YouTube, Greg said, "It's the subtleties around you that can be experienced with virtual reality and it makes it so much more realistic. You can stand in the middle of a 360-degree video and look up, down, and around without seeing or experiencing anything that is physically around you. There are no distractions so you are literally transporting yourself into an immersive environment. By comparison, when watching a video on your screen, you can still see the snack on your desk and the text alert on your cell phone."
Greg is confident that meetings will also start taking place in the metaverse instead of on Zoom. As for economic developers using this technology, Montgomery County, Ohio has found it to be an effective meeting presentation tool.
Economic developers looking to enter the metaverse will also find they have a welcome audience in Millennials and those still in high school and college. In Shelby County, Kentucky, economic developers teamed up with local manufacturing companies to create a series of virtual reality videos aimed at high school students.
"We enjoyed telling their story in the virtual world. We used 360-degree VR video to show students and young adults that they have a lot of opportunities in their own backyard, that they can get a good job and have an amazing career in their hometown," said Greg. "In these videos, students can walk through manufacturing facilities, experience robotic arms in action, and other key technology at work. They can also experience the other types of opportunities available at these companies without physically entering the building." For young people who are accustomed to gaining information online, the metaverse may be a more comfortable environment to explore new things - including job opportunities.
Why Economic Developers Should Enter the Metaverse
Aaron Brossoit, Golden Shovel Agency and PlaceVR CEO, has been at the forefront of implementing this technology in the economic development industry. "I predict most industries will find a use for the metaverse. Ultimately, I imagine it will be a lot like the internet has become, always there and available. For industry leaders and site consultants, being able to meet virtually, take a virtual tour, and communicate with community leaders will be a huge advantage in prioritizing the most promising locations," he said.
Economic developers can give their communities the advantage of being present within the metaverse. By developing 360-degree sister tours, using 3D building models to show what's possible for a particular site, and partnering with local industry to showcase job opportunities, economic developers can take their place in the metaverse so that as people become more accustomed to finding information there, they won't miss the opportunity to connect.
About the Author
Vice President of Strategy & Content Development
Connect with Bethany on LinkedIn
Bethany Quinn is the Vice President of Strategy and Content Development for Golden Shovel Agency. She lives in Maryland with her husband, seven children, and dog Sox. Having also lived on the West Coast and Midwest, Bethany appreciates the uniqueness of each community and enjoys creating strategies that will help them grow.